Matt Knutson: Sometimes the path to success involves waiting

Published 9:28 am Friday, January 6, 2017

Things I Tell My Wife by Matt Knutson

“On days like today, I understand why people live in a townhouse,” I told my wife as we returned home from our time away for the holidays. We had a great vacation visiting family between Christmas and the new year, but of course winter made itself known by coating our driveway and sidewalk with a pretty solid sheet of ice and unshovelable snow. I don’t mind getting out the snowblower, grabbing a shovel, or picking up a pack of icemelt, but all of that seems futile at the moment.

I think my parents raised me to be the kind of person who fears disapproval from surrounding houses in the neighborhood. I’m rarely judging how long the grass is in their yard or how clear of snow their sidewalks are, but I hear their imaginary, judgmental voices in my head when I look at the current state of our driveway. “How could he have let it get this bad?” I imagine them saying. “Doesn’t he know other people have to use this sidewalk too?” They possibly ponder to themselves. “What bank would give a loan to a family who can’t even clear off their driveway?”

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These hypothetical remarks all play out in my head, when more than likely these families are thinking, “We’ll give a pass to that new dad. He’s probably a bit too busy taking care of his young family to have time to properly clear off the driveway.” It’s not true, I have time to do it, but nothing is working.

The snowblower is ineffective against the ice, as is the shovel. The various forms of icemelt that I’ve invested in have proven to be faulty, so much so that I wouldn’t be surprised to hear of a nationwide recall for their inadequate products. Brief success came late last week, only to be recovered in ice after a storm earlier this week. Now, temperatures have plunged and the strong wind simply blows away any remaining sand, salt or other mixture I’m attempting to use to rectify the problem. There’s only so much someone can do to clear the sidewalk, and I’m about at that point.

Then I look out our front window and see the footprints in the snow that had blown back onto the icy sidewalk the night before and remember that some people take the bus to work and school and use our sidewalk to reach the bus stop. And there’s that mom I frequently see delivering the newspaper because she decided it was too cold for her son to do his paper route. And that senior gentleman who lives a few houses down and likely only gets out of his home to walk his dog, which he does rain or shine, above or below zero degrees. I remember those people, and the guilt settles in a bit more about my ice removal failings.

The lesson I’m taking away from this parable of my own life is that sometimes we just have to wait before things can improve. Early next week the temperatures will rise and I’ll have a true opportunity to win this battle, but until then, I have to be OK with where things stand. It’s a particularly hard lesson to learn in early January as we all embrace new resolutions and strive to be better people. I read online that something like 9 percent of people felt they were successful in achieving the resolution in previous years. Maybe it wasn’t yet their time to succeed, but maybe their sunny day where temperatures are rising is just around the corner.

Thankfully, my resolution wasn’t to have a perfectly cleaned driveway. Had it been, we’d be moving to a townhouse where we would be paying someone to take care of the driveway and sidewalk during the winter and the yardwork in the summer. There’s always a path toward success, sometimes we just need to wait a bit before we can see it.

Rochester resident Matt Knutson is the communications and events director for United Way of Olmsted County.